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2-Plants: GM forms of wild species 'may lead to crisis' English Nature says

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TITLE:  GM forms of wild species 'may lead to crisis'
SOURCE: Electronic Telegraph, UK, by Charles Clover
DATE:   June 1, 1999

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GM forms of wild species 'may lead to crisis'

According to this story, companies are developing genetically
modified versions of native grasses, fish and trees which could
cause ecological disaster by breeding with wild species if they
were released. English Nature, the U.K. Government's wildlife
advisers was cited as saying that development of GM versions of
wild species - meadow grasses, carp, salmon, turbot, plaice and
poplar - poses ethical questions far beyond those raised by the
GM crops awaiting commercial release, which are relatively self
contained in their impact, and has led the group to request that
the genetic modification of wild native species be discussed
urgently by the new Agricultural and Environment Biotechnology
Commission, the new ethics committee announced by Jack
Cunningham, the Cabinet Office minister. The story says that
scientists working for two biotech companies have been
experimenting with introducing herbicide tolerance into
agricultural grasses used in meadows and pastures. Dr Brian
Johnson, English Nature's biotechnology adviser, was cited as
saying the implications were "very serious" for Britain's
meadows, 97 per cent of which have already been destroyed or
substantially altered in their species composition by sprays or
inorganic fertiliser in the past 50 years, adding, "We are very
concerned that these companies are working on products which if
placed on the commercial market with no restriction - which is
certainly the intention - would hand to farmers the ability to
create monocultures very cheaply.  You could do it, for example,
by direct drilling the seed in old pastures, waiting for the seed
to germinate and then simply spraying off the old pastures. The
implications are potentially very serious for wildlife because we
know that a large proportion of our farmland wildlife is just
hanging on. And many of our pastures, though they appear
fertilised and very green, may have 15 or 20 species growing in
them which are of great use to wildlife, particularly birds.
There is a whole range of insects which feed directly on those
weeds and a series of others which feed on the nectar and

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